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Monday, February 23, 2009

Negative immigrant experiences - not for everyone

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Here is a quote from a NZ expatriate forum which I wanted to respond to because I often read negative statements about NZ. I want to respond to this persons concerns.
We are in process of leaving after 3.5 yrs in NZ. There are so many problems here that crime - a substantial one - is only a little piece of the picture. Its very expensive to settle here - and of young university educated professionals we know we have stayed the longest.
I think this woman's perceptions are a little colourful and generalised. Perhaps the reason is that the country is 'boringly' quiet (as any place with just 4mil people will be) that you are incensed by every media exposition into every crime. I think its sensationalised, and the writer is perceiving herself to be living in a crime zone, and at risk....thinking she will be next. I have heard about drive-by shootings in our neighbourhood, yet there is no causal link to me because I am not in a gang, displaying attitude to other people. For that reason, NZ makes a lot of sense for retirees and people earning offshore income (who don't have an attitude). I think the dangers are exaggerated. My area is famous for murderers, in fact we bought between two crime scenes, and it couldn't be a more idyllic setting. It was considerate of the gangs to drive down property prices. I occasionally hear fearful statements from old ladies who don't live in the area. The reality is that gang warfare is gang-on-gang, and thus life for most people is pretty pleasant. I've taken the neighbours out for dinner, and they have had us over for beers. Never had that experience in Australia or Japan, but I did in NZ and the Philippines, which are both places with a reputation for danger. NZ police are friendly, people are friendly. The crime I think looks worse because its spread throughout the country (in pockets) rather than in zones you can so easily ignore. I think you still need to pick your streets wisely. The context is different. There are 'bad zones' in Sydney where I would not go, so its a difficult style of problem.
Since we arrived here things have descended further into chaos amazingly fast - the national govt will help some of it get back on track but they cannot change the kiwi mentality which is poor and proud of it.
This writer seems to think that the National government will help the problem. I am less impressed by them. They will be hard on crime, though evidence and my thought process tells me detached, 'tough cop' style policing does not help. New Zealand is a welfare state, so there is a sense of entitlement, but it cannot permeate the whole country. You cannot have parasites without a living host. So why can't this reader find similarly minded people.
Many New Zealanders don't have a strong aspirational culture. They live for the day, to enjoy their manhood toys, etc. The national savings culture is a testimony to that. But in the business precincts I can find people who are interested in business. I like that they are balanced in their lifestyle values, which makes them less uptight.
The media and marketing execs do a brilliant job of controlling the flow of info, most of the time we don't recognise the NZ we read about. The climate in Hawkes Bay is fantastic but its not enough.
Well I see no conspiracy to mislead this writer. I think simply they made a series of choices which were not well researched; that they did not think about their decisions with due regard.
My experience could not have been more different. I find rural New Zealanders the friendliest Westerners I have ever met. I find city folk less friendly, even uptight, but that is what I expect from city people in most other countries. There are always exceptions. If I was in the city I would join an expat community. I have done that in EVERY city that I have lived. i.e. Sydney, Tokyo, Manila, and even for shorter stays in other cities, e.g. Fukuoka, Taipei, Bangkok, New Dehli. People like to meet new people, so look for new-age thinkers, not entrenched thinkers (whether in city or town). NZ has some lovely well-serviced towns. You might not need to live in the cities for some career choices since some of the towns have interesting opportunities.
Beautiful free beaches soon get boring. If you live in a dangerous place where work/ pay is basic and social order is non-existent then you will simply trade land mass - but it might be better if fresh air and sun is important. there are a lot of regretful migrants here but their options are few and no one here cares. god help you if you break silence.
Well any scenery gets boring if you spend all your time looking at it. That is why you have to enjoy your job and engage with people in your local community. There is a skills shortage in this country, so you might need to partner with foreigners abroad to set up a business. My partner and I found business people in our rural community in online web and video content development. That weak NZD is a very attractive aspect for us, which this unhappy immigrant will lament. NZ is very competitive as a centre to export services.

This immigrant feels this way for a reason, but without specific knowledge of her experiences we can learn nothing from her judgements about NZ. I would like to ask her what particular threats has she experienced. I do think you can avoid problems by talking to neighbours before you buy a house, eg. Wary of domestic violence, gangs, public housing areas. Maybe she bought with her closed eyes. Risk is managed, not avoided. NZ may not make sense in her context, but blanket warnings serve no one, least of all her own state of mind. Specific and balanced accounts are more useful. People like this writer placed fears in my mind before I came to NZ. So far such fears have been dispelled.
So I wanted to offer more balanced perspective. We paid $NZ78,000 (USD43,000) for our house, so I'm in no wealthy neighbourhood. We paid cash for our house so without rent or interest payments, the cost of living is reasonable. Food prices are not so high (10% higher compared to Australia, and its a weaker currency). I also note that the grocery stalls offer VERY generous discounts every few weeks, ie. 50% off chocolate nut bars, 50% off cereal, so its far cheaper if you are opportunistic. If you bought in one of those high-priced city suburbs 3.5 years ago, I guess one might be anguished in these times of falling property prices and exchange rates. Maybe this writer is making another silly decision by moving out of NZ at the worst possible exchange rate - in fact when she should have been moving in. Now is the time to come......if you can get a good job or retire. But at the end of the day I think this person is externalising responsibility. She should reflect on her lack of planning before she came to NZ.

'Buying NZ Property – Download the free sample readings!

NZ presents some of the most alluring property in the Western World; particularly given the greater easy of residency, the low cost of property, and the liveability of the country. In addition, there is no capital gains tax, transfer taxes, VAT/GST or wealth taxes in NZ, so rest assured that NZ property is tax-effective! Learn more now!

New Zealand Property Report 2010 - Download the table of contents or buy this 180-page report at our online store for just $US19.95.


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